New Year For Trees (lit. 15th of Shevat)
Lev. 19:23-25; 26:3-4
First Covenant Application:
Firstfruits offering of the produce from trees in Israel
New Covenant Application:
reflection of the fruit of the Spirit manifest in the people of God, symbolized by the olive tree
the assembly of New Covenant God-worshipers
New Year for Trees
post-Biblical holiday (not specifically identified in Scripture, but offering from trees was commanded):
Food (Fruit) Offering
not prophetic, but meaningful in New Covenant
The only one of the four Jewish 'New Years' that remotely corresponds with the one celebrated on the Gregorian Calendar is Tu B'Shevat. While bitter cold reigns supreme in the northern regions of the world during this holiday, in Israel Tu B'Shevat is considered the beginning of the growing season, when life-giving sap begins to flow back through the trees. The almond blossoms start to pop out along with the almost imperceptible smiles as the joy of spring begins to warm the heart (here in North Carolina I think about the similar effect caused by the sight of redbuds, bradford pears, and daffodils poking through the soil).
During the Second Temple era, Tu B'Shevat was when farmers were assessed taxes for their trees, and the Firstfruits of four-year old trees was offered (Lev. 19:23-25, 26:3-4). The Mishnah first shows the appearance of Tu B'Shevat as one of the official four 'new years'; it was in the 16th century, however that Jews began to celebrate it as a real holiday--even creating a seder in which the seven major products of Israeli trees are consumed.
But Tu B'Shevat has deeper meaning than just celebrating the growth cycle of trees. The Jewish people have long equated the tree as a symbol of the people of God themselves--which is why the menorah is shaped like a tree: like the life-giving sap of a tree flows through its trunk, branches, and leaves, the life of God flows through His people. In the New Covenant, the Apostle Paul continued this imagery in Romans 11 when he calls the Gentile Christian believers a 'wild olive branch' grafted into the people of God who 'share in the nourishing sap of the olive root'.
So for Christians, Tu B'Shevat represents a fantastic opportunity to reflect on the shared life we have as the people of God, a holy nation, connected to each other and to Him, which produces all the good qualities of the Law of Moses like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, also identified as the 'fruit of the Spirit' in Galatians 5:22-23. As you celebrate Tu B'Shevat, take a look at what God has produced in your life, and the ways He has used you to show or transmit these qualities to other people; and commit to allowing the LORD to further use you in these ways. L'chaim!